Of course everyone has their pantyhose knotted up about this Rockport Select Board member/charter amendment deal. It’s the talk of people all through the area, going way beyond Rockport. Everybody has an opinion and so do I. Mine may be a little different, but that shouldn’t come as any surprise to people who follow what I write.

There are three people who are jammed right up here and don’t deserve to be. I don’t know the three members of the Rockport board who are going to decide the fate of the other two, but I’ve been in a similar situation and can tell you it does not feel good. My guess is that up until a few weeks ago, the board members were working on budget items, warrant articles and handling other business that came along as most boards do. Probably there’s some difference of opinion, which is always healthy, but at the end of the night, the work gets done. Now, they have to decide the fate of two members of the board and they have to do it in a very public forum under lots of watchful eyes. At this point, I would urge the citizens of Rockport who plan to participate in this issue to have some compassion and consideration for the board members as they did not ask to be in this situation, and under this kind of scrutiny. They’re people just like you that stepped up to help their town and they should be supported in this difficult time. State your mind and disagree if you want, but don’t be disagreeable. Unless you have a personal issue with these people, don’t make it personal.

Here’s what happens every single time when things like this go on in a small town. People who have been friends for years, stop speaking to each other. Neighbors who get together over the fence avoid each other. It’s all because people feel the need to take a side. Let’s look this situation over and see if we can break it down to what it is, not anything else. The town of Rockport adopted a charter, which is a legal document that says basically that members of the Select Board can’t work for the town. That’s pretty much it. Two members of the Select Board have done work for the town. Boards awarded contracts, people in town hired members of the Select Board to do work. Contracts were signed by the town. The people who should have raised the issue didn’t raise the issue. Could have been a board member. Could have been the town office. Could have been done in private, just a “does this look right?” phone call. None of that happened, which says to me that the public was right to call the board and town office to task because they had opportunities to correct the situation and didn’t do it. So before you get all lathered up and go at it with your neighbor, ask yourself, “Did I have anything to do with this?” If the answer is no, then let it go. If the answer is yes, you should be embarrassed, admit your mistake and leave it at that. No matter how passionate you are about this issue it is not worth losing friends over it. But that will happen, I guarantee. For some reason, people in these situations always try to rally people for their cause. The cause could be the accused or it could be the accuser, but either way people put innocent people into a position that they can’t back down from. That’s the sad part and I only hope that going forward the citizens of Rockport will handle this in a professional manner. You see, it’s about Rockport, the town. It’s not about you. Whoever you are.

The issue is not whether anybody took advantage of their position on the Select Board. The issue is that in Rockport, members of the Select Board are not allowed to do business with the town. That’s it. It happened. Several opportunities were there for people to correct the situation and nobody did. Here’s the bad part. Those people did figure out that there was a problem after a while. They had two choices. Choice number one would have been to say something like, “We’ve identified a couple of situations where the town charter has been violated with no malice and no personal gain and the people involved recognize their errors as does the town and all will be more diligent and can assure the citizens of Rockport that this will not happen again.” Instead the position was taken that the charter was wrong and we’ll just convince the citizens to change it. Despite the intention of that act, the perception is that something sneaky is going on.

The sad part of all this is how the Rockport officials have handled it. Now the battle lines have been drawn. People need to be careful what they say. There could be legal issues. And the three remaining members of the board don’t have any good choices. They need to follow the charter and two members of the board appear to have violated the charter. They have served with these people and will struggle to vote to remove them from the board, and they will struggle because they see it as a personal decision. I’m sure that’s why the board member sent the e-mail to the town manager. It is what it is. From time to time board members are required to vote because it is necessary in the process of government, but there is really no choice in the vote. This is one of those situations. The charter is clear. The situation is clear. The vote is clear. Nobody wins. Sometimes that’s just what happens. The vote is not as important as how you feel when you meet people at the post office or coffee shop.

Bill Packard lives in Union.